I hadn’t been to a zoo in decades. My brothers and I were semi-regular attendees with our grandmother we were children, but, as I grew, my philosophy about zoos changed. I no longer enjoyed watching animals walk around cramped and dirty cages. So, it was with some trepidation that I decided to join my brother’s family on a recent trip to the Bronx Zoo.
I should add that the last time I visited a zoo I did so on two working legs. Now I would go on in a wheelchair. And, I’ve come to expect that man-made environments are not always friendly to wheels.
Frankly I don’t know what I was expecting. I’d heard that zoos had changed over the years. I’d heard they’d become much more compassionate, giving better treatment and more space to the animals. But, I was wary. Still, I felt it was my duty as a new uncle to accompany my nephews.
No matter my own preconceptions, I was anxious to see my younger nephew’s reaction to the animals. At fifteen months he was just beginning to explore the wider world. Everything fascinates him. Still, I expected him to be somewhat fearful. Boy, was I wrong! He loved every minute of the experience. He giggled. He cooed. He pointed to, and tried to touch, the animals. And, I loved watching him.
For me the experience was somewhat different. The Bronx Zoo is huge. Getting around was a bit of a challenge. Though it was apparent that the designers and physical plant architects had attempted to make strolling along the many paths as easy as possible, there are some significant obstacles for those of us on wheels.
For one thing the hills were daunting. Whereas I almost never ask for assistance getting from place to place, and don’t like people touching my chair without my permission, in this instance I had no choice. I had to have my brother push me up and down some of the steeper slopes. Furthermore, though many of the paths were paved with concrete, there were several that were either broken up or comprised simply of packed dirt. A serious rainstorm would have made the latter paths inaccessible to my wheels. At one point during our excursion I made these points clear to one of the staff members and was told that when the season ended there were plans made to repave all the paths.
In closing, for other wheeled visitors to the Bronx Zoo, you might want to rent a motorized scooter. In fact, it might be a good idea if venues such as zoos and parks buy such conveyances for renting to needy patrons.